Emptying a reporter's notebook at Super Bowl LVI:
The name Rafer Johnson sends chills through any Baby Boomer and that's one of the names the Bengals of the Zooming 2020s saw when they took the practice field at UCLA's steam bath Wednesday. The track around the field at Drake Stadium is named after Johnson, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and activist, and his wife Betsy.
Bengals president Mike Brown, the 86-year-old owner of the Bengals, defied the 85 degrees and walked a few laps around the track while his team that has defied everything else got loose …
"It's weird. Last Wednesday practice of the year," said slot receiver Tyler Boyd about 90 minutes later, after head coach Zac Taylor stayed true to his brief, walk-through-ish Wednesdays. "Pretty much the same thing. Just a little different environment."
The time change seemed to suit Boyd just fine after the plane landed Tuesday.
"I get it all mixed up, but I had enough sleep," Boyd said. "I feel good, my body feels good. I woke up earlier than I usually do. Took a shower and started my day." …
Boyd said he didn't do much on Tuesday's day off with a curfew in place. He was in the lobby in shorts when a group that was headed out asked him along. It's a good look at what these guys talk about when they riff about chemistry. Quarterback Joe Burrow, tight end Thaddeus Moss and defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson were passing through. Offense. Defense. Starter. Practice squad.
Boyd has been to Rodeo Drive before, but he jumped in for the 10-minute trip from Westwood over to Beverly Hills to shop and have dinner.
"I went to Louis Vuitton and a couple of other stores," Boyd said. "Bought some pants, shirts. I like this Gucci jacket I got and I may wear it to the game."
Then they ate at Mastro's, a steak house not too far from the shops and were back in plenty of time before the work week would start the next day. But the jacket didn't sound like it was going to hold Boyd over.
"I'd like to get over to the Beverley Center," he said of the toney mall, which is a little bit farther away and closer to West Hollywood.
Like everyone else, Boyd is impressed with the sparkling facilities and weather (one of his teammates asked, "How can UCLA ever lose a game?") and had to laugh when he was asked why he didn't go there out of Pittsburgh: "I was offered. Never took an official (visit). East coast guy. (Pittsburgh) was the best school for me."
Never know who you bump into at a Super Bowl:
The greatest Bengal of them all, Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Munoz, took a turn on radio row Wednesday and was wearing one of the Bengals polo shirts he plans to wear every day this week. He plans to hook up with his fellow Californian and two-time Bengals Super Bowl offensive lineman Max Montoya out here later in the week.
"Love the matchup for the Bengals," Munoz said. "First of all, I just love watching them play. So fun to watch. Here's the thing. I know everybody is talking about the Rams defensive line against the Bengals offensive line, but I like the Bengals defensive line against their line."
Never know who you bump into at the Super Bowl, Part II:
Former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer also hit radio row with his very tall 12-year-old son Fletch and, as he was saying last week, he's hoping they can pull this one out.
"The Bengals have enough magic for one more," Palmer said. "Even though they have all those Hall-of-Famers and All-Pros they're playing against. It's unbelievable that Rams' lineup. But there's something magical about this Bengals team. I hope they've got a little more magic left for one more win."
Here's what he says they have to do:
"The ball has to come out quick. They did a good job with Ja'Marr (Chase) last week motioning him. Lining him up in the backfield. Not letting him get doubled. Joe has to get the ball out and he can't hold it waiting for him to come off that coverage … They've been so creative with motioning him around and finding ways to get him the ball. You just can't sit back and hold it."
No. 9 keeps shaking his head over how this No. 9 kept getting back up in Tennessee. He's a big Burrow guy.
"Love everything about him," Palmer said. "Very level-headed. It's demoralizing to get sacked that many times, … that takes an emotional toll on everybody … but you never felt that way watching him play. He was cool. He was calm. The offensive line believed in him. They knew the defense would get a stop. There's a great belief and great energy in that magic. Just enough to get this team past all those All-Pros and All-Stars I hope."
Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner passed through radio row, too, on the run and smiled at the mention of Jimmy Burrow, Joe's dad who was a coach on Warner's Iowa Barnstormers of the mid-1990s. So maybe that's why he hesitated to predict his Rams team that he led to this game 22 years ago and won. Maybe, also, because he took that same Rams team here two years later, where they were stunned by a second-year quarterback named Tom Brady.
"All the numbers say the Rams," Warner said. "But it's not always about the numbers "
And he should know.